Sticks and Stones… well, you know the rest, sports fans

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The CFL head office and the Toronto Blue Jays got it right, courts in South Africa and Spain — not to mention Jose Bautista and I — got it wrong and why every sports fan in Winnipeg should care that Kevin Durant is no longer a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 06/07/2016 (2235 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The CFL head office and the Toronto Blue Jays got it right, courts in South Africa and Spain — not to mention Jose Bautista and I — got it wrong and why every sports fan in Winnipeg should care that Kevin Durant is no longer a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Welcome to our first-ever edition of Sticks and Stones.

• • •

Here’s a sentence you haven’t read often since Jeffrey Orridge took over as CFL commissioner — the league’s head office did something right.

Marcio Jose Sanchez / The Associated Press FILES
Kevin Durant

Orridge has been taking heat this week from people who think Montreal receiver Duron Carter should have gotten a lot more than just a one-game suspension for knocking down Ottawa Redblacks head coach Rick Campbell last week.

For once, I’m on Orridge’s side. There were mitigating factors — Carter’s head took the worst of a high-speed collision in the end zone a few seconds before Campbell — who was on the playing field and not giving ground — got bumped. 

Carter’s suspension sends a clear message that only the guys wearing helmets are fair game. The league also levied fines to Redblacks safety Jermaine Robinson — who delivered the head shot — and Campbell, making it clear that no one was innocent in the episode.

There’s talk the CFLPA might appeal Carter’s suspension, arguing he was concussed at the time. Everyone would be better served if we all just moved on.

• • •

I’ve never been more wrong about a CFL team than I was about the 2016 B.C. Lions.

I figured the Lions were an orange-and-black tire fire that even Wally Buono’s return to the sidelines couldn’t extinguish.

Shows what I know. The Lions are 2-0 coming into this week after beating the Calgary Stampeders to open the season and completely dismantling the Tiger-Cats last weekend — in Hamilton, no less.

Wally Buono… genius.

• • •

Misery loves company.

If you’re a Blue Bombers fan looking for reason to hope, it’s worth noting that the Edmonton Eskimos face the Saskatchewan Roughriders Friday night, and when it’s over one of them will also have opened the season at 0-2.

• • •

John Woods / The Canadian Press
CFL Commissioner Jeffrey Orridge

Winnipeggers who follow the NBA were likely sorry to see Kevin Durant leave the Oklahoma City Thunder this week to sign with the Golden State Warriors.

Oklahoma City is to the United States what Winnipeg is to Canada: a small, often overlooked place that a lot of people poke fun at.

And having Durant, one of basketball’s biggest stars, taking OKC deep into the playoffs was cause for optimism, I thought, for small-market teams everywhere.

Bummer.

• • •

A lot has changed in South Africa over the years. But there’s obviously more to do.

Let’s pretend for a moment that it was an ordinary South African black man, rather than former Olympic and Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius, who fired four bullets indiscriminately through a bathroom door on Valentine’s Day in 2013, killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, who was cowering inside.

Leaving aside Pistorius’s long history as a domestic abuser and reckless user of firearms, does anyone out there think a black man would have received the six-year sentence that the double-amputee “blade runner” received on Wednesday from a South African judge?

Pistorius was convicted of culpable homicide (similar to manslaughter) in 2014 and sent to prison for five years, but prosecutors appealed and he was convicted of murder, which normally carries a minimum 15-year prison term, which is still too lenient in my books. Wednesday, the judge — the same one who sentenced Pistorius in 2014 — decided to show him the kind of mercy that he didn’t have for Steenkamp.

In the ruling, the judge said she was impressed by the “remorse” the “fallen hero” showed in attempting to apologize to the Steenkamp family.

Sorry I murdered your daughter. See you in a couple of years.

• • •

Manu Fernandez, File / The Associated Press
Barcelona soccer player Lionel Messi arrives at a court in Barcelona, Spain, in June.

And speaking of legal double standards for wealthy athletes, how about the slap on the wrist soccer star Lionel Messi got this week for defrauding the Spanish government out of $4.6 million in taxes.

Messi and his father orchestrated an elaborate scheme to hide millions in earnings from Spanish authorities and both men were handed 21-month sentences this week by a Spanish court.

And that would be great if those sentences actually meant something. But in Spain, sentences of less than two years for first-time offenders are suspended, meaning Messi will never see the inside of a jail cell.

Again, let’s play the pretend game — substitute Messi with a Spanish shopkeeper and tell me the guy doesn’t do time.

• • •

His team is winning, but Jose Bautista is losing.

Bautista’s value as a pending free agent — both to the Blue Jays, and on the open market generally — is steadily dropping this season.

The Jays are winning just fine without Bautista, who’s underperformed this season and has been out for weeks after hurting his toe, which might just be the most baseball injury ever. Hockey players have competed with a broken legs, but in baseball all it takes is turf toe — or rain — to bring everything to a standstill.

Anyway, Bautista is probably wishing now he’d been a bit less obstinate in his spring salary negotiations, which amounted to giving the Jays a huge number and then telling the club — and the world — that it was “take it or leave it.”

The Jays left it — and haven’t missed a beat. They’re hitting on all cylinders again, the bullpen is finally putting out fires instead of lighting them and a four-game winning streak had the Jays within 2 1/2 games of the AL East lead heading into Wednesday night.

• • •

Last, still think the Jays were wrong not to have re-signed pitcher David Price after last season?

Price is 8-6 this season with a 4.64 ERA, while J.A. Happ — the pitcher Toronto signed after passing on Price — is 11-3 with a 3.54 ERA and a contract worth $181 million less than the deal Price signed with the Red Sox.

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @PaulWiecek

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